I had three children along my journey, and it was especially scary when I was having my third son, as I had just lost 96 lbs., but I continued to workout through my pregnancy and quickly re-lost the pregnancy weight, and have kept the weight off not for nine years.
I tried not to get discouraged by the big numbers I had to lose, and set small mini goals for myself. I would say the milestones I hit along the way that stand out as moments I’m most proud of:
- Milestone: When I was first able to do three unassisted pull ups.
- Milestone: I remember training with Carla Dunlap, and doing deadlifts, and I stood up and said, “Did you see that?!! There’s light peaking out between my legs!” It was a defining moment.
- Milestone: When training with former Ms. O, Carla Dunlap, she said, “Not everyone is like us.” I remember almost crying I was so moved that she, as such an inspirational and incredible athlete, even consider me in the same sentence.
What was the driving force that made you decide you wanted to start your fitness journey?
My weight gain, like many women experience, had been gradual: a few pounds in college, a few more in law school, and then after I got married, got pregnant and after I had my first son and hit an OMG number of 208 lbs.
I had treated myself to a day of beauty at the spa before my first son’s Christening, and was mortified when I had to return to the desk and ask the receptionist who appeared to weigh 89 lbs. if they had a larger robe, as the one size fits all robe, was lying.
That was my “aha moment.” You have an image in your head of what you look like, and for me it took a day at the spa to face the reality, that I no longer resembled my former self.
What was your lifestyle like prior to your change?
It occurs to me now that I was a spectator. I would watch TV, watch a movie, read a book, go see a sporting event or theatre performance, everything involved watching or reading about other people doing something. Going out to eat had somehow become something to DO.
I used to go for bike rides with friends, have a weekly racquetball game, take a dance lesson, all of which, one by one, had just sort of stopped as I got older. I was watching life go by, while I sat on the sidelines.
Most transformations create a support group for the transformer. Who were your biggest supporters and how did they help?
I began working out with home workout videos (Cathe Friedrich, Gilad & Jillian Michaels’ workout DVDs), and then went on to find a great personal trainer. I sought out Carla Dunlap, a former Ms. Olympia who happened to train in my area. I found weight training, like some people find religion, as it was that life changing to me.
Any other times I had tried to work fitness into my life, I had only tried cardio, and since you can’t outrun the fork, made little progress. When Carla moved to Florida a few years ago, I began training with Greg Rando, an IFBB pro who despite being blind, is an amazing competitor, trainer and constant source of inspiration.
For every supporter, there is likely a hater. Did you have any haters? How did you deal with their presence? Have you turned any of your haters into fans?
“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future?” If you’re trying to develop healthier eating habits and a solid fitness routine, you may be surprised by how those closest to you respond. I’ve said it a hundred times, saboteurs are everywhere with their very tempting catchphrases: Well start tomorrow; Just this once; Don’t deprive yourself, etc.
After an initial success in losing some weight, the thing I was most surprised with was what seemed like resentment. Friends would tell me I wasn’t fun anymore if I suggested maybe we get a manicure or go for a walk as opposed to going out for drinks and apps.
My family seemed to want to interrupt my morning home workouts to ask me for help with one matter or another. Well meaning friends would have never-ending “just this once,” “have one little piece,” and “everything in moderation” comments for me.
I was undeterred by all of it, but it did require me to have a few tough conversations to be clear that this wasn’t a fad for me. I realized to be successful; I needed to be single minded in my quest to get in shape. I didn’t give into feeling guilty or sad for how the time and decisions I made for myself made others feel.
Eventually the day came when everyone just accepted the new normal.
What was your weight training approach and split during your transformation?
I put the breakdown below, but typically in the morning did a 7-10 minute ab/core workout daily as well.
I also have a strict rule, that I won’t watch TV unless I’m on a piece of cardio equipment, so I DVR my favorite shows and hop on the bike or elliptical if I want to watch. The only usual exceptions are family movies or major sporting events, or the news while I’m cooking breakfast or dinner.
What motivational tools did you use to stay on track in the gym?
I purposely chose a gym where a lot of body builders and fitness competitors worked out. I wanted to be inspired by people who walked the walk. I wanted to remind myself why I was committed to working out. If I admired someone’s physique I’d try to pay attention to what sort of workouts they were doing.
I also try not to question my fitness routines. I truly have made working out like brushing my teeth, something I just do without question.
Please list 3 things you learned about exercise, weight training and/or cardio during your transformation that helped you succeed:
- Don’t be a cardio queen. Heavy weights do great things for your body.
- Proper form and correct movement during will help prevent injury and how important it is to rest your muscles and avoid overtraining.
- You simply can’t outrun the fork.
What's a workout that has worked best for you?
I work out every day of the week and my muscle split looks something like:
|1. Bench Press||3||15|
|2. Incline Bench Press||3||15|
|3. Chest Fly||3||15|
|4. Close Grip Bench Press||3||15|
|5. Dips w/ Medicine Ball||2||24|
|6. Overhead Extensions||3||12|
|7. Skull Crushers||3||12|
|8. Theraband Pulldowns||1||failure|
|9. Bike, Eliptical, or Walk||1||45 mins|
|1. Bicep Curls||3||12|
|2. Hammer Curls||3||12|
|3. Wrist Curls||3||12|
|4. Reverse Curls||3||12|
|5. Lat Pulldown||3||12|
|6. T-bar Row||3||12|
|7. Dumbbell Rows||3||12|
|8. Theraband Row||1||failure|
|1. Dumbbell Shoulder Press||3||12|
|2. Front Raise||3||12|
|3. Lateral Raise||3||12|
|4. Bent Over Delt Raise||3||12|
|5. External Rotator Cuff Rotations||3||12|
|6. Bike, Elliptical, or Walk||1||40 mins|
|1. Leg Extensions||3||15|
|2. Leg Press||3||15|
|3. Calf Raise||3||15|
|4. Sumo Squats||3||15|
|7. Bike, Elliptical, or Walk||1||40 mins|
Gyrotonics, Pilates or Yoga for Flexibility.
Cardio: 40 minutes on bike or elliptical or walk
|1. Theraband Fire Walkers||1||failure|
|2. Glute Squeezes||1||failure|
|3. Inner Thigh Raise||3||15|
|4. Hamstring Raise||3||15|
|5. Glute Raises||3||15|
|6. Outer Thigh Raise||3||15|
|7. Bike, Elliptical, or Walk||1||40 mins|
|3. Reverse Crunches||1||failure|
|4. Medicine Ball Raise and Twists||1||failure|
|6. Leg Raises||1||failure|
|7. Run Stadium Stairs||1||30 mins|
|8. Bike or Hike||1||30 mins|
How are you currently training, and has your training changed since the completion of your transformation?
I think the biggest change for me since reaching my goal weight was working in flexibility training. I found weight training like some people find religion, it was that life changing for me.
As a woman, I think I was always predisposed to thinking of cardio as exercise, but even after working in resistance training, I didn’t think I had the temperament for say yoga or pilates, and I would often have a tendency to skimp on the cool down or stretching after a workout. I’ve also added in Gyrotonic workouts which have been really helpful with some back issues.
Transformation Diet & Nutrition
What was your diet/nutrition approach during your transformation?
The biggest change I made was to try my best to eliminate added refined sugar starchy carbs from my diet. I added in eggs, whole oatmeal, lean proteins and lots of leafy green veggies. I swapped sweet potatoes for regular ones, riced cauliflower and short grain brown rice for white rice.
Gone are the days of pina coladas and fried pizza skins! As a general rule, unless it was cauliflower or a white chocolate Luna Bar, if it was white, I tried to avoid it.
Were there any diet/nutrition mistakes you made that you learned from?
When I first started out on my journey, there was a temptation to have diet soda, or diet products, like sugar free Jell-O or use sugar free syrups, or to try to eat less, and the more I’ve learned about fitness and clean eating, I’ve learned to shop the “outside aisles” of the supermarket in a better effort to avoid processed foods.
Please list 3 things you learned about diet & nutrition during your transformation that helped you succeed:
- That eating clean, healthy and nutritious foods is not “depriving myself.”
- That it’s not enough to think you know what’s healthy. Do your research!
- BLT’s count: bites, licks and tastes add up, and sips too.
Can you provide us with a sample daily eating plan?
Breakfast: I have had a Luna Bar every day for breakfast for almost as long as I can remember. They were a huge part of my success losing weight as having one with my coffee each morning kept me sane amidst the chaos of family life with three boys and the temptation to either skip breakfast or hit the drive through for a muffin or bagel.
Other breakfast choices for me on days where I don’t have a Luna Bar, are an egg white omelet or scrambled eggs with some wilted spinach or I’m also a huge fan or Stack’d Protein Pancakes, and even the boys love them!
Lunch: I love to make a “ginormous” salad and throw in six ounces of grilled chicken and avocado with a very light drizzle of Trader Joe’s Light Champagne Vinaigrette salad dressing or balsamic vinegar and some olive oil.
I also enjoying doing a half cup of whole oatmeal with protein powder with berries and nuts for lunch. Soups are also a favorite, and I have some great healthy recipes for a vegetable soup with ground turkey unfortunately named “Fat Flush Soup” and a delicious Cashew Butter Thai Chicken Stew that tastes so rich and creamy but is broth based and uses diced granny smith apples instead of potatoes!
If I really want a sandwich, I will use a healthy and lower calorie wrap (I use Joseph’s Oat Bran and Flaxseed wraps) and stuff with sliced turkey and veggies and mustard, as mayonnaise and I broke up many years ago.
Dinner: Dinner is usually a lean protein (skinless chicken breast, salmon, turkey, buffalo, very lean and grass fed beef, or shrimp). I will often make a nice salad for dinner too, and will have a small baked or mashed sweet potato or a half a cup of brown rice, with a variety of steamed, grilled, or roasted vegetables.
I also have a lot of fun making zoodles, zucchini noodles by using a vegetable spiralizer and sprinkle with an hard grated parmesan cheese to avoid pastas. I also enjoy making a light version of enchilada casserole that is real crowd pleaser.
Snacks: For in between meals, I will usually chose: A Muscle Milk Organic Ready to Drink Shake, a banana and small handful of raw almonds, all kinds of berries, a skim coat of peanut butter on a brown rice cake, and I ALWAYS have a Luna bar in my pocketbook for emergencies so I’m never caught hungry without a decent choice in sight.
I also make some healthy oatmeal “cookies” that use whole oats, cinnamon, blueberries, mashed bananas and egg whites. I will also sometimes make some guacamole or hummus for a dip with veggies or my favorite Riceworks Brown Rice Crisps.
Throughout the day, I try to drink lots of infused waters and use strawberries and cucumbers to flavor some water to help get in all the water that’s recommended.
Did you allow yourself cheat meals?
I always say, “Moderation is for maintenance.” When I was trying to lose 96 lbs., I didn’t often give myself a cheat meal, but now that I’m in my goal range, I try to plan for “worth its” and let it be a choice that I’m having it.
Some foods I’ve broken up with forever. I almost never have pasta, bread, and can’t remember the last time mayonnaise was in anything I ate. I frequently joke that Golden Oreos are the crack of the cookie world, and if it’s a food that I know I can’t just have a little of, sometimes it’s easier to have none.
ADVICE FOR OTHERS
What are your best 3 tips for someone looking to make their own transformation?
- Remind yourself, “You’re no busier than a fit person.” We’re all busy.
- Make your workouts like “brushing your teeth,” something you just do without question.
- Think of food as a choice, and not as a reward or a punishment. You don’t “deserve” a decadent dessert, nor are you “depriving” yourself if you don’t have it.
How do you stay motivated? What advice would you give to someone who’s having trouble staying on track?
Don’t get comfortable with some success. As I was losing weight, and every time I went down a size, I would only buy one pair of jeans, one pair of tan pants, and one pair of black pants. I wouldn’t spend a lot, and I would tell myself, “Don’t invest in this size, as you’re not going to be staying here for long.”
It takes a strong sense of self-awareness to realize you’re only several bad decisions away from backsliding. There’s no finish line or touchdown dance.
YOUR LIFE NOW
What is your life like now that you’ve made a transformation?
There isn’t one part of my life that’s the same. I do almost everything differently from food shopping, to cooking, to what I do with my spare time, to the magazines I read, right down to almost never taking an elevator anymore.
I tell myself that my workouts give me the strength and focus to handle all the rest of my life, and it’s true. My success led to my using my social media pages (FBJ Fit) and my blog (fbjfit.com) to help inspire other people who may be struggling.
What motivates you currently to keep improving yourself?
When I first lost weight, a few high school girl friends messaged me on facebook asking me how I had lost weight, and I began giving them advice on what worked for me.
I began commenting if they’d check in at restaurants, about what they were ordering, they’d text me from restaurants, asking me what to order, and I earned the nickname “Facebook Jillian” as a joke, as I was always trying to encourage them to bust any excuses why they couldn’t work out.
As they began losing weight, several of their friends started messaging me as well, and I created a facebook page dedicated to giving diet/fitness tips, sharing healthy recipes and overall fitness inspiration. The page has grown to having close to 4000 followers, and I have met people for the first time who’ll tell me they follow my page and that it helps inspire them.
I have found my page and blog to be my labors of love, and try to share advice and inspire those who follow it. I find that doing the page keeps me on the straight and narrow as I try to set a good example. There have been several occasions I’ve been at a party, and someone will come up to me and tell me that they follow my page, and ask me questions.
One time I was at a season end soccer party for my son, and I joked back, “good thing I was having the salad and not the pizza!”
Anything else you would like to share?
On the personal side, I’ve been asked by many friends to help get them started on their own transformations. It means a lot to me that now I’m in a position to help other people, as it’s like I achieved my goal twice.
Helping others with their fitness journeys led to my starting a blog at fbjfit.com as well as facebook, twitter and instagram pages for FBJ Fit to help others with their own quest to get healthy and lose weight. I get messages from people all over the world, and it’s truly become my labor of love.
Where can others follow you on your fitness journey?
- Website: fbjfit.com
- Facebook: FBJ Fit
- Twitter: @FBJFit
- Instagram: @FBJFit
Image Credit: Cordele Photography & David Volkmann Photography